Once Bob sought help from his pastor, since he felt his prayer life was severely lacking.
“Pastor,” he said, “I love the Lord, but I just can’t concentrate. Whenever I close my eyes I get hit with all these distractions and after some time I give up in frustration. Would you have some advice?”
The pastor thought for some time.
“Well Bob,” he finally said, “Prayer can be a fight, it is true. But how about this; just place a chair before you and imagine Jesus is sitting right on that chair and then you just talk to Him as you would to a dear friend. After all, He is with you in the room, except you cannot see Him with your physical eyes.”
Bob liked the idea; he tried it and it seemed to greatly help.
However, some time later the pastor got a frantic call from Bob’s sister.
“Pastor…please come; Bob just died. He must have had a heart attack. We found him this morning and he was bent over and clutched the chair in front of him with both hands. It’s such a strange sight. I don’t understand it.”
“But I do,” said the pastor. “I can assure you that Bob’s homegoing was a beautiful one.”
Prayer is communication with God.
But how do we communicate with God? Are there certain rules to follow? Are there wrong ways to pray and should prayer mean the same thing for every believer?
In a way, this was the question the disciples had when they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Jesus gave a surprising answer. He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father which is in Heaven’…”
In answer to the desire of the disciples to learn about a good prayer technique, Jesus just gave them one tiny prayer. Of course, it was a very beautiful prayer, but nevertheless it was no more than a few lines.
A person who would not be very familiar with the life of faith may even accuse Jesus of being lazy and that He put the disciples off with gentle words.
Shouldn’t He have used this opportunity to really sit down with his chosen disciples and really teach them? Why did He not explain the pitfalls in prayer and why did He not highlight the best prayer-techniques so His dear friends could learn how to have instant access to the courts of Heaven?
In a way He did, although it may appear to be somewhat hidden.
The Lord’s Prayer is rich in intimacy, rich in faith and rich in love and contains everything we could ever wish or need during our earthly journey.
The key is found in those three words, intimacy, faith and love.
Meaningful prayer is based on a personal relationship between two parties. It is the language of love between God and men. Better yet, it is the language of love between God and you. And since you are special and different from anybody else, what works best for you may not work at all for somebody else.
Some people sing their prayers. Others pray while they take a walk. Yet others like to take the scriptures and pray the Psalms of David while they change some of the words to meet their own needs. There are people who love to pray written prayers and there are people who like to sit still before God in absolute silence so they can just soak in His presence. Most of us do all the above things at some time or other.
But there is one common threat in all these different ways in which people pray. Paul talks about it in the book of Hebrews.
“He that cometh before God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. For without faith, it is impossible to please Him.” *
There it is.
One of the main ingredients, that has to be present for any type of meaningful prayer. Our faith.
And what kind of faith; that there is somebody or something up there far beyond the blue that we need to appease in order to secure our earthly blessings?
No, not that kind of faith.
When Jesus gave us the Kingdom Prayer, He meant faith that works through love, the second ingredient.
Prayer is the mutual expression of love and respect between God and the one praying. When love is lacking, prayer won’t work no matter what technique you try to follow.
Prayer is not a way to ‘get what we want,’ although God does make sure we get what we need. Prayer is our loving fellowship with our own Father.
As a good illustration, I like to recall a well-known anecdote, which you may have heard before, but it is well worth retelling.
Jim was a poor fellow, and he had little as far as earthly possessions go. But he dearly loved Jesus and in order to express his love for Jesus he went to church every day at noon and stayed for a few minutes.
It worried the caretaker. He saw the ragged bum come into his church every day at noon and only stay for a minute or two. What did that man do there? Was he planning to steal the expensive ornaments or something?
The caretaker decided to put a stop to it and approached Jim the following day.
“Hey, you! What you are doing here?” he asked.
Jim just smiled. “I love Jesus. I come to pray.”
“That’s nonsense,” the caretaker argued. “You’re only in there for two minutes. You do not take enough time to pray. What’s going on?”
“But I do pray,” Jim assured the caretaker. “Every day at twelve I come in and I say: ‘Hello, Jesus. It’s me again, Jim. I love you.’ Then I go out. I know Jesus heard me and He is happy with me.”
Several months later Jim had an accident and was transported to the hospital. There he had a glorious influence on everybody he met. He was always happy and smiling and all the people that came into contact with him in that gloomy place were affected by Jim’s happy, cheerful spirit.
One day a nurse decided to ask Jim how come he was always so cheerful.
“Well, sister,” Jim said. “That’s because of my visitor. “
“Visitor?” the nurse asked. “Nobody ever visits you! What do you mean?”
“I do have a visitor,” Jim said with shining eyes. “It’s Jesus. Every day He comes in at twelve and He smiles at me and then He says, “Hello Jim. It’s me again, Jesus. I love you.”